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MT-076

TUTORIAL
Differential Driver Analysis

Differential drivers can be driven by either single-ended or differential signals. This tutorial
analyzes both conditions using either an unterminated or a terminated source.
CASE 1: DIFFERENTIAL INPUT, UNTERMINATED SOURCE
Figure 1 shows a differential driver driven from a balanced unterminated source. This would
typically be the condition for a low impedance source where the connection distance between the
source and the driver is minimal.
RF1
RS/2

VSIG/2

RG1

VSIG/2

VOCM

VICM

VIN

RG2
RS/2

VOUT
VOUT

VOUT+
RF2

RG1 = RG2
RF1 = RF2

VOUT
V
V
R F1
G = OUT = OUT +
=
VIN
VSIG
R G1 + R S / 2
Figure 1: Differential Input, Unterminated Source
The design inputs are the source impedance RS, the gain setting resistor RG1, and the desired gain
G. Note that the gain is measured with respect to the signal voltage source, VSIG.
The total value of the gain setting resistor with respect to the signal source, VSIG, is RG1 + RS/2.
Also, RG2 = RG1.
The required value of the feedback resistors, RF1 = RF2, is then calculated using:

R F1 = R F2 = G R G1 + S
2

Rev.0, 10/08, WK

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Eq. 1

MT-076
CASE 2: DIFFERENTIAL INPUT, TERMINATED SOURCE
There are many cases where the differential driving source drives a twisted pair cable which
must be terminated in its characteristic impedance to maintain high bandwidth and minimize
reflections as shown in Figure 2.
RF1
+

VSIG/2

RS/2

VD+ RG1
VIN

VSIG/2

RS/2

VOCM

VICM

RT RG2

VOUT
VOUT

VD

VOUT+
RF2

RIN = RG1 + RG2 = 2RG1


RG1 = RG2
RF1 = RF2
V
V
VOUT R F1
G = OUT = OUT +
=
VIN
VD + VD
R G1

Figure 2: Differential Input, Terminated Source


The design inputs are the source impedance RS, the gain setting resistor RG1, and the desired gain
G. Note that for the terminated case, the gain is measured with respect to the differential voltage
at the termination, VIN = VD+ VD .
The input impedance, RIN, is equal to 2RG1 for a balanced differential drive. The termination
resistor, RT, is selected so that RT||RIN = RS, or

RT =

1
1
1

R S 2 R G1

Eq. 2

The required value of the feedback resistors, RF1 = RF2, is then calculated using:
RF1 = RF2 = GRG1

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Eq. 3

MT-076
CASE 3: SINGLE-ENDED INPUT, UNTERMINATED SOURCE

There are many applications where a differential amplifier provides an effective means of
converting a single-ended signal into a differential one. Figure 3 shows the case of an
unterminated single-ended driver.

RF1
RS
VSIG

RG1
VOCM

RG2

VOUT

VOUT
+

RF2

VOUT+

RG2 = RG1 + RS
RF1 = RF2
V
V
R F1
VOUT
G = OUT = OUT +
=
VSIG
VSIG
R G1 + R S

Figure 3: Single-Ended Input, Unterminated Source

The design inputs are the source impedance RS, the gain setting resistor RG1, and the desired gain
G. Note that the gain is measured with respect to the signal voltage source, VSIG.
In order to prevent VOCM from producing an unwanted offset voltage at the differential output,
the net impedances seen by both inputs of the differential amplifier must be equal. Therefore,
RG2 = RG1 + RS

Eq. 4

The value of the feedback resistors is then calculated using:


RF1 = RF2 = G(RG1 + RS)

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Eq. 5

MT-076
CASE 4: SINGLE-ENDED INPUT, TERMINATED SOURCE

Figure 4 shows a very common application where a single-ended source drives a coaxial cable
which must be properly terminated to minimize reflections and maintain high bandwidth.
The design inputs are the source impedance RS, the gain setting resistor RG1, and the desired gain
G. Note that the gain is measured with respect to the voltage at the termination, VIN.
R IN =

RS
VSIG

R G1
R F1
1
2( R G1 + R F1 )

RG1

VIN

RT

VOCM
RG2

RF1

+
RF2

VOUT
VOUT
VOUT+

ZIN = RIN||RT
RG2 = RG1 + RS||RT
RF1 = RF2

VOUT
V
V
G = OUT = OUT +
VIN
VIN

Figure 4: Single-Ended Input, Terminated Source

Knowing the desired gain, G, the gain-setting resistor RG1, and the source resistance, RS,
calculate the initial value of the feedback resistor, RF1A. The final value of this resistor will be
slightly higher due to the increase in RG2 required to match input impedances. This will be
included in later equations. The calculations proceed as follows:
RF1A = GRG1

R IN =

R G1
R F1A
1
2( R G1 + R F1A )

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Eq. 6

Eq. 7

MT-076
RT =

R TS =

Eq. 8

1
1

R S R IN

RSR T
RS + R T

Eq. 9

RG2 = RG1 + RTS

Eq. 10

The input voltage VIN can be related to the source voltage VSIG by:

R T || R IN
VIN = VSIG

( R T || R IN ) + R S

Eq. 11

( R || R IN ) + R S
VSIG = VIN T

R T || R IN

Eq. 12

In order to calculate the final value of the feedback resistors, the Thevenin equivalent circuit
shown in Figure 5 is used.
R IN =

RS||RT

R G1
R F1
1
2( R G1 + R F1 )

VIN

RT
VSIG

R T + RS

RG1
VOCM

RG1

RF1

VOUT
+

RF2

RTS = RS||RT

RG2 = RG1 + RS||RT


RF1 = RF2

Figure 5: Thevenin Equivalent Input Circuit

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MT-076
The output voltage can be expressed as a function of the source voltage as follows:
R T R F2
VOUT = VSIG

R T + R S R G2

Eq. 13

Substituting Eq. 12 for VSIG into Eq. 13:


( R || R IN ) + R S R T R F2
VOUT = VIN T
R + R R
R T || R IN
S G2

Eq. 14

VOUT ( R T || R IN ) + R S R T R F2
=
R + R R
VIN
R T || R IN
S G2

Eq. 15

G=

In the case of a proper termination, RS = RT||RIN, and Eq. 15 reduces to:


2 R T R F2
G=

R T + R S R G2

Eq. 16

R (R + R T )
R F2 = R F1 = G G 2 S

2R T

Eq. 17

Solving Eq. 16 for RF2 = RF1:

COMMON-MODE INPUT AND OUTPUT CONSIDERATIONS

Care must be taken in applying differential amplifiers to make sure the input and output
common-mode voltage ranges are not exceeded. This is especially true in single-supply
applications.
Figure 6 shows an application of a differential amplifier where a single-ended bipolar groundreferenced signal must be converted into a differential signal suitable for driving an ADC. In this
example, the common-mode input voltage of the ADC is +2.5 V, and the differential input swing
of the ADC is 4 V p-p. Many differential amplifiers can handle the output swing provided the
power supply is at least +5 V.

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MT-076
3.5 V

500

2.5V
1.5 V

2V

500

+
2 .5V

0V

500

VOCM
+
VOUT+

-2V

VOUT

500
3.5 V

1.75 V
1.25 V
0.75 V

2.5V
1.5 V

Input CM Voltage is a Scaled Replica of the Input Signal


Input CM Voltage Partially Bootstraps Rg, Raising Effective Input Resistance
Single-Supply Application can Accept Bipolar Input
Must Ensure That Input Common-Mode Voltage Stays Within Specified Limits

Figure 6: Input/Output Common-Mode Requirements


for Single-Ended to Differential Converter with Bipolar Input Signal

The corresponding input signal swing at the (+) and () amplifier terminals is also shown in
Figure 6. Note that it is a scaled replica of the input signal. The specifications on the differential
amplifier must allow for an input common-mode voltage between +0.75 V and +1.75 V under
these conditions. This is also possible with many differential amplifiers.
Figure 7 shows an application where a single-ended unipolar signal is converted with a
differential amplifier.
In this case, the common-mode output voltage is set for +2 V. The input signal swings from 0 V
to +4 V. The corresponding signal swing on the amplifier input terminals is from +1.5 V to +2.5
V. The amplifier outputs must swing from +1 V to +3 V. The differential amplifier selected must
be able to handle these requirements when operating on the desired supply voltage(s).
The ADIsimDiffAmp interactive design tool performs these input/output signal calculations for
the various Analog Device's differential amplifiers and greatly simplifies the selection process.
Error flags are generated if the signals fall outside the allowable ranges on either the input or
output.

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MT-076

3V
2.5V
2V
1.5 V

500

2V
1V

4V

500

2V

2V

VOCM

500
0V

500
3V

2V

0.1F

2V

1V

10F

Figure 7: Input/Output Common-Mode Requirements


for Single-Ended to Differential Converter with Unipolar Input Signal

AC-COUPLED DRIVER APPLICATIONS

AC-coupled applications of differential drivers are straightforward. Figure 8 shows a typical


single-ended to differential ac-coupled driver. Note that the impedances are balanced on each
input in order to achieve the best distortion performance. The low frequency cutoff of the input
circuit is equal to:

fC =

1
2R G1CC

Eq. 18

The value of CC should be chosen so that this frequency is at least 10 times less than the
minimum desired signal frequency.

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MT-076
RF1
RS
VSIG

VIN

RT

CC

RG1
VOCM
RG1
RTS

RTS = RS||RT

+
RF2

VOUT
VOUT
VOUT+

CC

Figure 8: Typical AC-Coupled Driver Application


REFERENCES
1.

Hank Zumbahlen, Basic Linear Design, Analog Devices, 2006, ISBN: 0-915550-28-1. Also available as
Linear Circuit Design Handbook, Elsevier-Newnes, 2008, ISBN-10: 0750687037, ISBN-13: 9780750687034. Chapter 2.

2.

Walter G. Jung, Op Amp Applications, Analog Devices, 2002, ISBN 0-916550-26-5, Also available as Op
Amp Applications Handbook, Elsevier/Newnes, 2005, ISBN 0-7506-7844-5. Chapter 3.

3.

Walt Kester, Analog-Digital Conversion, Analog Devices, 2004, ISBN 0-916550-27-3, Chapter 6. Also
available as The Data Conversion Handbook, Elsevier/Newnes, 2005, ISBN 0-7506-7841-0, Chapter 6.

4.

Walt Kester, High Speed System Applications, Analog Devices, 2006, ISBN-10: 1-56619-909-3, ISBN-13:
978-1-56619-909-4, Chapter 2.

5.

ADIsimDiffAmp , an Analog Devices' on-line interactive design tool for differential amplifiers.

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